If you follow a 10-step skincare process or follow a Korean skincare routine, you’re familiar with essences. Because the name is so obscure—what exactly is it?—it takes some digging to figure out what it does. This is where we can help.
You may believe that essences are nothing more than fancy toners. Wrong. We invited Soko Glam’s Charlotte Cho and Glow Recipe’s Christine Chang and Sarah Lee to break it all down for us. “Traditionally, toners have been viewed of as an astringent, pH balancing, and clarifying phase—almost as a second step after cleansing,” they explain. “Toners are frequently poured onto a cotton pad, which aids in the removal of any residue left behind after cleansing.” Essences are lightweight liquid treatments that effectively fill the skin with hydration and/or anti-aging actives and are perfect for layering.”
If you’re itching to try an essence (*raises hand*), we’ve compiled a list of some of our faves for all skin types. Pro tip: If you have sensitive skin, look for a fragrance-free option.

The Best Essence For Oily Skin

After cleansing, oily skin types can benefit from using a skin essence to help unclog pores, eliminate excess sebum, and lift traces of debris and grime.
The C-Balancing Toner from the Obagi-C Rx System will assist to balance the skin’s pH levels while also lowering excess oil production for a clear complexion. It includes vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from UV damage, helps to remove pigmentation, and evens out skin tone
Witch hazel’s antibacterial qualities shrink pores, while aloe vera calms inflammation. Finally, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA) aids in the hydration of the skin by increasing its moisture content.

1 Sk2 Facial Treatment Essence

This essence is typically designed for oily skin, blemish-prone skin, and acne-sensitive skin. The essence’s texture is liquid and enables oily skin to absorb the product easily and quickly. After using it for about 40 days (day and night), I could feel that my T zone got less greasy. Additionally, I could also see other significant improvements on my face. For example, my skin becomes smooth and less sensitive.


2 Vichy Mineral 89 Booster Serum

If you are looking for a hydrating essence, I would like to recommend Vichy Mineral 89 Booster Serum. Even though the serum seems like a thick texture, it is easily absorbed when applied to your face. The ingredients of the essence are kindly. So it is also suitable for sensitive skin.


3 YSL Pure Shots

If you ask me how I can keep my face whitening after a late night, I would say because I am using YSL Pure Shots. Not only keep your face brightening but help unclog and shrink pores. The texture of the essence is a little bit oily. Gently pat and patiently massages are needed while applying. Make sure to avoid using it with Vitamin C products.


4 The Ordinary Niacinamide 10%+Zinc 1%

I would say it is the best oil control essence that I have ever used. The texture is glutinous, but don’t worry about that. You may be surprised by its amazing oil-control effect. Additionally, I strongly recommend using it with the Alpha Arbutin product. The brightening effect is particularly evident.


5 Olay ProX By Olay Brightening Spot Fading Essence

Significantly reduce the look of dark spots. Simultaneously, it helps prevent the reduced appearance of spots. I regularly use one or two full droppers every night. After only two weeks, I could find an improvement in my face in terms of my skin tone. But in my opinion, this essence is not suitable for dry skin, as the moisturizing effect is not strong enough to dry skin.